National Association of Community Health Workers

The National Association of Community Health Workers was founded to unify the voices of community health workers and strengthen the profession’s capacity to promote healthy communities. To support their launch as an official membership organization, the Rx Foundation provided a capacity-building grant of $150,000 over two years (2019-2020) to enable the association to hire its first Executive Director, Denise Octavia Smith, a community health worker with an MBA, and begin promoting the organization. Those human and financial resources at a key moment launched NACHW on an aggressive trajectory and underscore the value of capacity-building grants.

With the arrival of the Executive Director in November of 2019, the organization became operational on an entirely new level. It has since grown remarkably. Membership has increased from about 200 to more than 2800 institutional and individual members. Those members are located in all 50 states.

More than $3 million in additional funding has been raised, mostly in technical assistance contracts from key relevant organizations like The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. NACHW has also received grants from Johnson & Johnson to fund the NACHW Advance CHWs project, which advances the national professional identity, policy leadership and organizational capacity of community health workers.

As Executive Director, Denise Octavia Smith participated in two events at The White House in 2022: she was a participant in The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and was a panel member at The White House Summit on the Future of COVID-19 Vaccines. The White House had previously turned to NACHW for help in rolling out the website, which made available free at-home COVID tests. NACHW’s partnership helped ensure that community health workers knew about this resource and could support their communities in requesting the free tests.

Without the initial support of the Rx Foundation, NACHW would not have had the capacity to grow so dramatically in size and influence. It would not have been in a position to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.A subsequent two-year grant (2021-2022) of $150,000 from the Rx Foundation has helped NACHW to support its membership in building capacity and leadership in advocacy and health policy. It has facilitated, among other initiatives, five collaborative learning communities: one on organizational leadership, one on mental health, one on social determinants of health, one for Spanish-speaking community health workers, and one for community health workers in tribal settings. Each of the collaboratives averages 150-180 participants per quarter.